Mac Pro

Article Index. Where to find things.


The best computer from Apple. Ever.

In this series of articles I show how to upgrade a 2009 or later Mac Pro to current technologies.

  • There are many photographs illustrating mechanical processes.
  • I put heavy focus on objective measurements of performance changes.
  • All upgrades shown have been tested on one or more of my Mac Pros.
  • You will never read words like “…. it feels faster ….” here. Such expressions are meaningless.

If you have neither the time or inclination to do your own CPU upgrade – it’s by far the trickiest of the many upgrades I illustrate – you can pay me to do it in very little time. If you DIY and trash a processor socket the replacement logic board will cost you $695, plus time and cost to install:


Click the logo for details of my
2009 Mac Pro CPU upgrade service.

Article Index.

  • Part I – Choices
    • Choices for a used Mac Pro.
    • Why the 2009 Mac Pro.
    • FU Steve retires.

  • Part II – Xeon CPUs
    • Aspects of improving performance.
    • Stock Geekbench and Cinebench data.
    • Cable dots.

  • Part III – Memory and Airport
    • Enhancing memory and its correct installation.
    • Native Airport card installation for wi-fi.
    • Processor cage removal.
    • Migrated Hackintosh issues.

  • Part IV – Firmware and EFI
    • Power consumption data.
    • Installing 2.5″ drives properly.
    • Firmware upgrade from 4,1 to 5,1.
    • Updating EFI.
    • SMC and PRAM resets.

  • Part V – Relocate an internal SSD and Blu-Ray
    • Maximizing internal storage.
    • Relocating an SSD to the optical bay area.
    • Blu-Ray DVD reader/burners and Superdrives.

  • Part VI – Manuals
    • Where to buy the Service Manual and why one is essential.
    • Original Mac Pro web page at Apple.com and selling prices.

  • Part VII – Parts
    • Repairs – common repair parts, sources and cost.

  • Part VIII – Graphics
    • All about graphics cards.
    • Better graphics with non-Apple aftermarket cards.
    • Graphics card installation and benchmarks.
    • Multiple displays.
    • Sound levels.
    • Anomalies with non-‘Made-for-Mac’ cards and their resolution.
    • Running two graphics cards.
    • Revised power consumption data with two cards.
    • nVidia web drivers.

  • Part IX – Value
    • The value proposition.
    • Why the Hackintosh no longer solves as an OS X machine.

  • Part X – Heat
    • Temperature and fan issues.
    • Cooling down the hot Northbridge chip.

  • Part XI – Installing faster CPUs.
    • Hire an expert to do this high risk job correctly.

  • Part XII – Stress tests
    • Power consumption.
    • Stress tests and diagnosis of problems.

  • Part XIII – Cost
    • The all in cost of a state-of-the-art Mac Pro.
    • What are the major Mac Pro models and their differences?
    • Don’t be cheated by firmware upgrades.
    • How to look up your serial number.
    • Buying used – what to look for and what to avoid.

  • Part XIV – USB3 and Blu-Ray
    • Install a powered USB3 card for a 100%-300% performance gain.
    • Parts and cost.
    • Benchmarks.
    • The unpowered USB3 card option.
    • Adding a Blu-Ray burner.
    • Back-up strategy.

  • Part XV – HTPC
    • The Mac Pro as a Home Theater PC.
    • Model choice.
    • Enabling HDMI.
    • USB3 for Blu-Ray movies.

  • Part XVI – Sata III
    • Install a SATA III card for a 100% performance gain.
    • SATA III drive installation and expansion options.
    • Converting old SATA II drives to SATA III speed or better.

  • Part XVIII – HDDs
    • Adding a larger SATA III data HDD.
    • PCIe slot power use and limits.
    • Striping two SATA II HDDs into one using RAID 0 for SATA III speeds.
    • Performance data.

  • Part XIX – Upgrading the 4-core Mac Pro CPU.
    • Hire an expert to do this high risk job correctly.

  • Part XX – The new Mac Pro.
    • A poor value for still photographers.
    • Can be easily outperformed in PS and LR with a 2009 4-core for 33% of the cost of the nMP.

  • Part XXI – The best Graphics card.
    • A ‘Made for Mac’ EVGA nVidia GTX680.
    • 4K capability comes stock.
    • A cost effective upgrade for the new breed of displays.
    • Power use and performance data included.

  • Part XXII – Upgrading the 2013 Mac Pro.
    • An expensive machine.
    • CPU, SSD and memory upgrades.

  • Part XXIII – Replacing the backplane board.
    • Most likely required for a machine which refuses to chime or boot.
    • An easy job once the error in Apple’s Technician’s Manual is corrected.

  • Part XXIV – Installing Apple Hardware Test.
    • A powerful analytical tool.
    • No longer installed on modern Macs – follow this to install it.

  • Part XXV – Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac wifi.
    • Required to use Handoff and Continuity with OS X Yosemite.
    • Allows phone calls to be made from the MacPro with an iPhone nearby.

  • Part XXVI – Thunderbolt disk speeds.
    • RAID 0 with an Apricorn Duo PCIe card.
    • An inexpensive solution offering Thunderbolt disk speeds.

  • Part XXVII – The 30″ Apple Cinema Display.
    • The best non-4K LCD display in the business.
    • Addresses the two models of the display Apple sold.
    • Issues with the DVI dual link to MiniDisplayPort/Thunderbolt adapter firmware versions are identified.
    • Using two Displays at full resolution with the Nvidia GTX680 and GTX980 GPUs.
    • Parts and repair sources are linked.

  • Part XXVII – Using mSATA drives in the Mac Pro – Part XXVIII
    • The fastest storage approach available.
    • New inexpensive PCIe card allows four mSATA drives to be installed in one PCIe slot.

  • Part XXIX – Fan management in the Mac Pro
    • Yosemite is a retrograde step for keeping things cool.
    • How to remedy that.

  • Part XXX – The GTX980 GPU for the Mac Pro
    • One of the fastest graphic cards on the market.
    • Exceptional performance, less noise, less power consumption.

  • Part XXXI – Adding a Fusion Drive
    • Apple’s Fusion Drive technology can be applied to dual SSDs.
    • A Fusion drive allows a Recovery Partition to be created, unlike with a RAID0 drive.
    • Ideal for speedy backups with an additional failsafe, if not as fast as RAID0.

  • Part XXXII – The LG 34UM95C ultrawide display
    • Huge real estate.
    • Two of these need a dual DisplayPort graphics card.
    • Excellent value for money.

  • Part XXXIII – OS X – the new Windows
    • OS 10.11 El Capitan is a disaster.
    • Avoid at all costs.
    • Apple is the new Microsoft – add ‘feature bloat’, subtract stability.

  • Part XXXIV – Recent Nvidia cards in the Mac Pro
    • Broken drivers yield a Catch 22 situation
    • Several ways around this

  • Part XXXV – Windows on the Mac Pro
    • Hold your nose
    • A cheap way to install Windows 7 Pro, the least bad version of Windows
    • Bootcamp provides optimum performance